Rich children have “substantial advantage” from tuition, finds researchCurrent affairsNewsPolitics & Social issues
Children from families with a higher income are more likely to receive an educational advantage from private tuition, research suggests.
The Sutton Trust education charity claims that extra classes give students an “edge” and have issued calls for a publicly-funded voucher system to make tuition available to students from poorer families.
A study conducted for the Trust by Ipsos Mori found that one in four children in the UK received private tuition. Numbers showed 27% children were from the wealthy families and only 15% from the lowest income bracket who received these extra classes in the last year.
Dr Conor Ryan, director of research at the charity, claims that the past five years has seen a “persistent gap” of at least ten percentage points in levels of tuition between the two ends of the income spectrum.
Dr Ryan said: “If we are serious about improving social mobility we must narrow the gap in educational opportunities.”
The organisation is calling for a means-tested voucher system to be imposed using an extension of the “pupil premium” which is currently used to fund the one-to-one coaching of pupils who require catching up.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, disagrees with the decision and believes that adequate teaching standards would render external tuition redundant.
Mr Hobby remarked: “We set a large period of time during the day for pupils to study and I don’t think this idea gets to the root of the problem. The issue here is quality of teaching. If there is money to spare then we should make sure it goes on the best teaching. Then there would be no need to spend extra time studying. Kids should be having fun in the evenings rather than constantly studying.”
The subsidy would also address the availability of extra-curricular activities for children from low-income families.
The survey also asked 309 parents about the out-of-school activities of their school-age children. It was found 76% children were involved in some form of social activity: over 50% participated in sport, 16% joined Scouts and Guides, others took dancing, yoga, photography, painting, languages, keep-fit and car maintenance classes.
Bryan Lightman, of the Association of School and College leaders, claims that schools are already pressed to effectively distribute limited resources.
Mr Lightman said: “Good schools will make decisions based on evidence and experience of how to best use the pupil premium. There is no panacea or one-size-fits-all solution.”
The extent of tutoring in the UK remains below international averages. A survey by the Performance in International Student Assessment (PISA) showed that 70% of 15-year-olds received after-school tuition in mathematics in Shanghai and Japan compared to 42% British students and the UK was ranked 26th place in a study of 65 countries for academic performance in maths, behind Ireland, France and Poland.
Thomas Rhys Jones